Stone Bear: Phoenix

By: Amelia Jade
Stone Bear: Phoenix





Chapter One


Uriel



He was sulking. There was no other way to describe it.

Uriel fumbled with the zipper on his lunchbox. He squeezed the soft-sided blue container between his legs, trying to get it to open. The zipper was caught.

“Stupid fucking design,” he muttered, yanking harder on the flimsy metal. It didn’t change a thing; the container stayed closed, denying the contents it held within.

“Do you—”

“No, I fucking don’t,” he growled angrily at Raphael’s outstretched hand.

He was going to do this himself. There was no other choice. If he couldn’t learn to do simple tasks like this on his own, then Uriel knew he would quickly find himself overwhelmed by the world at large. It wasn’t like his situation was going to change anytime soon. Or ever.

“Why won’t you let us help you?” Gabriel asked, not for the first time. It was a well-worn conversation between them. The two Stone Bears clearly hated seeing him struggling with things that shouldn’t pose a problem. That much he knew. But Uriel didn’t want their help, and he especially did not want their pity. He was still alive, and mostly whole. There were others out there about whom he could not say the same.

“I lost an arm, Gabriel. I’m not paralyzed or invalid. I need to learn how to fend for myself. I will not be helpless,” he snarled, more at himself than the other two.

“It would be a lot easier if you got some help along the way,” Raphael said under his breath, turning back to his own lunch.

Metal snapped and shortly after a blue object flew across the cavern as Uriel took out his frustration on the lunchbox. The remnant of the zipper in his hand quickly followed.

He sensed Gabriel looking at him for a long moment before the leader of the Stone Bears got up and retrieved the lunchbox. His deft fingers—from both hands Uriel noted sullenly—quickly and easily slid open the remnants of the zipper. Without a word he put it in Uriel’s lap.

At least he didn’t open the containers for me. His friend and boss had done that for him once, and it made Uriel feel less than useless. Not that he felt much better after his little tantrum just now.

They were sitting in the open-air cavern that housed the Stone Bears’ equipment, vehicles, and numerous other supplies for the large mansion complex set high into the mountains above Genesis Valley. Winter was in full force, and snow swirled in the entrance, but it never got far. The entrance wasn’t exposed to the majority of the weather, since it was obstructed by the sharp turn of the road that led up to it. The asphalt surface pivoted ninety degrees to the right as soon as it exited the cavern, making a complete 180-degree turn as it ascended to the main level. The extreme turn ensured that solid walls of rock sheltered the opening from the worst of the snow and other weather.

The vaulted ceiling ran up into the darkness, past the heights where light could reach. Veins of quartz and other non-essential minerals ran up the walls that were hewn straight from the earth, without any manmade covering, although a composite floor had been installed at some point in the past.

It had become the de facto meeting place for the Stone Bears as well. They were careful to still hold routine meetings in their office, but they had become convinced that someone was likely to be listening in on them from there. Out here, in the huge cavern, they could speak in relative confidence with each other.

Right now, however, they were silent, each reflecting on the events of the past few months. Especially the fight that had occurred in this very space only two weeks past. It had been a rather bloodless fight as far as those things went in Genesis Valley. Plenty of injuries, but in the end, nobody had died because of the intervention of one of the most powerful shifters in the valley.

Valen Kedyn had ignored whatever threat was being held above his and his twin brother Marcus’s head to save the lives of Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael, and more than half a dozen of their friends. They had been confronted perhaps ten steps from where Uriel now sat, by a powerful enemy who had threatened to end them all without breaking a sweat.

“I wonder where Valen is now,” he said aloud.

The others looked at him sharply. They hadn’t discussed it at all in the intervening time, and Uriel decided that enough was enough.

“Uriel…” Gabriel warned, but he shook his head at his boss.

“No, it’s time we talked about what happened, and also what’s going to happen next,” he said firmly.

Raphael sighed, likely expecting an argument between Uriel and Gabriel on the topic. The two had butted heads recently over some of the leader’s decisions. Uriel felt that Gabriel was becoming a bit too cautious now that he had found a mate. The counterargument was that Uriel had become reckless ever since he had lost his arm.

Gabriel surprised both of them this time by nodding in agreement.

“There’s no point in speculating where Valen went,” he said before continuing. “But you’re right, we should talk about what’s going to happen next. We need to plan and be ready for as many outcomes as possible.”

Uriel felt his eyebrows begin to rise, but he pulled them back down, forcing himself to conceal his surprise. It wouldn’t do to draw attention to the fact that Gabriel had changed his mind. Instead, he needed to simply continue the conversation.

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